What Car Repairs Are Worth It?

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Photo: Erik Shilling

Last fall, I was driving in upstate New York with my lady and I saw some smoke materialize from under the hood. There were no warning lights, but after I pulled over and lifted the hood more smoke appeared. I learned later that the air-conditioning unit on my 2008 Honda Fit Sport had toasted itself.

A younger, poorer part of me first thought, “Air conditioning? Fuck it.” But then I realized that summer is hot, and, increasingly, sweat is my enemy. Aging really is a not dissimilar to the film Benjamin Button. The older I get, the more I want to be comforted, like a toddler. There was the prospect of uncomfortably warm summer drives that were ostensibly for the purpose of leisure, and I didn’t like that future.

What was the point of having a car if not to enjoy it? This was not, in this case, driving to the limit or whatever, but more just having a functional vehicle to take you places agreeably. I grew up driving shitboxes, so well into my twenties the idea of having air conditioning in a car seemed unimaginably luxurious, but once you have it it is hard to go back.


And so I got it fixed, for the tidy sum of $1,200 or so. The air-conditioning unit in my Fit is hard to get to, increasing the cost, since everything in the engine bay is pretty tightly smashed in to each other.

Which was all fine and good until a few weeks ago when the air conditioning cut out again. There was no smoke this time, just an odd clicking noise when I was idling and a weird stress on the engine every five minutes or so, in which the RPMs would suddenly decrease before ramping up again. The air coming out of the vents also wasn’t very cold.


I can deal with weird clicks and strange variants in idle speed but the proof is in the pudding. When you press down on the throttle, your car should move forward. If you hit the brake, your car should slow. If you turn the air conditioning on, cold air should come out. The mechanics of everything are interesting but the end result still has to be there.

And so I will head back to my mechanic this morning to see what the issue is. Air conditioning I apparently need, but there are other things on my car that I can go without. Body work, for example, doesn’t always strike me as worth bothering over. It’s not like I’m trying to get more downforce; until very recently there was duct tape holding my bumper cover together.


My question to you is, what repairs do you think are absolutely necessary and what repairs can you go without?